One reason communication can be confusing and unsatisfying is because two people are having different conversations: one about the actual topic and one about the hidden topic that has not been revealed.

Some signs of hidden issues are:

  • Arguing about “little things.”
  • Constant misunderstandings that result in comments like, “You know that’s not what I meant.”
  • An issue that was supposed to be settled keeps coming back.
  • Someone gets harsh or defensive in response to something intended to be positive and neutral.
  • Arguments with harsh words that are overdone in the way they are said like these listed below:
    • You always…
    • You never…
    • What did I just tell you?
    • It’s a waste of time to talk to you.
    • You’re too emotional.
    • You have no feelings.

Better ways to address this:

  • “I didn’t expect that response. Did I say something wrong?”
  • “Is there a possibility you are mad about something else, besides what we’re talking about?”
  • “You seem to be in a bad mood. Is something bothering you?”

Positive scenarios:

Q       “Can’t you stay focused on what we’re talking about now?”

A        “Yes we can go back to talking about that. I just wanted to make sure nothing else was bothering you.”

Q       “If something else is bothering me, I’ll let you know.”

A        “Thank you. If something is on your mind, I would love to hear about it.”

Negative answers:

  • “I can’t believe you’re upset about that! Why do you overreact for no reason.”
  • “I don’t always do that!”
  • “If you’re going to exaggerate, this conversation is over.”

Real Talk

Your issue may not be about your spouse at all. It may have something to do with yourself or something that happened in the past. Check yourself. Are you being overly defensive because you felt like you took too much in the past, and are dead set on never taking someone’s crap again? If so, talk about it with them and seek professional help to work through it if necessary.

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Megan, a native of Kansas City, Kansas is an empty nest parent of three adult children Ayanna, Jonathan and Isiah. Megan is a Christian and active in ministry at her church Cornerstone Baptist Church, in Arlington, TX. She is currently a Doctoral student working toward a Ph.D. in Marriage & Family Therapy at Texas Wesleyan University. Her personal interests include independent film, music and marriage enrichment. Megan is the co-founder of the Minority Behavioral Health Provider Networking Group along with colleague Cynthia Thompson.

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